'The fireman brought me on his back up to dry land'
PAUL Manning took many blows throughout his 18 years taking on opponents in a boxing ring. But struggling on after seeing the home he was born in 70 years ago snuffed out in seconds has proved to be his toughest fight yet.
"I got up out of bed. I didn't even know it had rained outside. I was walking down the stairs and then I just saw the floor covered in water.
"So, I went back upstairs, and the next thing there was a knock at the door. A fireman. So he shouts in the door, 'Is there anyone that needs to get out in an emergency?' 'I'd love to get out,' I said to him."
The deluge hit Island View Terrace in the heart of King's Island, located on the north of Limerick City, shortly after 7am last Saturday week. It wasn't until Paul got out of bed three hours later that he was faced with a river running through his front hallway.
At that stage the water had risen above two feet, leaving Paul stranded upstairs.
"I couldn't come down because I had no rubber boots or anything like that. I'm here on my own," the pensioner told the Sunday Independent.
"I threw the fireman down the house keys. He walked in and over to the stairs, and he put me on his back. He brought me on his back right up along the road until we reached dry ground."
All of his belongings were taken away in a skip – ripped out of his lifelong home. He paused in his sandbagged doorway to reflect on the memories attached to each piece of furniture, and a wagon of old 45 vinyl records he had collected since the Forties.
"I've never seen anything like it in my 70 years, never. And I hope I'll never see it again," he declares, sucking hard on a rolled-up cigarette.
"Oh god in heaven," he sighs, the past week clearly taking its toll.
His eyes welled up as he glanced around the two-bedroom house where he and his 13 siblings were born and reared.
Paul's message to the Government is simple: "Get our houses fixed. We're paying all our lives for it. Taxes for this and taxes for that. Wouldn't they put a bit back now. Do you know what I mean? I worked all my life."
What used to be a warm, comfortable home has been transformed into a cold, ruptured shell.
"The wallpaper had to be stripped from the walls because it was completely soaked. It's crazy. The whole place is destroyed. I've had to get rid of everything, wardrobes, cabinets, everything.
"It's almost like a bereavement. In some ways, it's a lot worse. It's on my mind all day since."
Apart from some family photographs having been spared, there is nothing left. All that remains is the cold stench of damp and the ghosts of fading memories meandering from room to room.
"The whole shebang. . . gone. 'Tis hard to figure. It's like a dream," he confesses.
"I'm here 70 years now. This is the family home. Fourteen of us were born here, seven boys and seven girls. The kitchen is wrecked, it's gone. My cooker has to go, the heater is gone, and the fridge is gone. All contaminated."
In his heyday, Paul was tipped to box for Ireland. The hardened spirit he showed in his former sporting glory days – having also secured a much-coveted Junior Cup rugby medal in 1968 with St Mary's RFC (a feat not yet repeated by the club) – may be against the ropes, but is not beaten.
Currently staying with a friend, he adds defiantly: "I'll be coming back in here once it is done up."